The Lucky Government Contractor

Posted by TurboGSA on May 3, 2016 10:50:00 AM

lucky.pngA client called me recently to let me know that they “haven’t had much luck” generating sales under their GSA contract. Curiously, she went on to say that she recently lost a bid because “a competitor got lucky” and won it instead. Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment.  It made me consider the nature of luck in business development and government contracting.  What exactly is it? Is it real? Or is it merely an excuse for our own shortcomings? 

Then I came across an interesting article in Psychology Today that discussed the nature of luck.  Of course it has nothing to do with a rabbit’s foot or a four leaf clover.  Nor is luck simply a matter of fate, something that remains outside of our control.

Luck can be Created

Government contractors have significant control over their own luck. Luck starts the leadership team providing the vision, resources, training and processes that enhances the organization’s culture and luck. Then it’s up to key individuals such as business developers and managers who can create their own luck in developing new government business.  So what exactly is luck in this context?

It's More than Preparation Meeting Opportunity

One of my former colleagues was fond of quoting the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.”  This certainly is true, but there is much more to it than that.  Borrowing from the above article, below is a table of eight essential ingredients of luck, contrasting lucky contractors with unlucky contractors.



Alert & Aware – Constantly review industry and government trends, meet with agency personnel, attend some conferences to identify coming change.

On Autopilot – They’ve been doing it a long time and feel that change is slow and that they already fully understand their marketplace. Consistency rules the day.

Proactive – They pursue collaborative problem identification and solving with agencies. They actively pursue collaborative deal creation.

Reactive – They sit in their office reviewing FedBizOpps notices, eBuy, and similar systems, looking for “opportunities.”

Opportunistic – Not to be confused with being reactive, lucky contractors are alert to change and pounce on emerging opportunities early.

Clumsy – Some contractors may see change coming, but are inept at exploiting opportunity.

Insightful – Able to share wisdom and prudent concepts and solutions with agencies, helping them identify problems early on and take prudent steps to change.

Myopic -  think that it’s best to deal with agency issues that are here and now, and fail to share knowledge about coming problems and opportunities.

Flexible – External forces are ever changing and agency reactions to such events will vary, so lucky contractors are flexible and adapt their approach to agency needs.

Rigid – Having developed their approach and methods over time, unlucky contractors stick to their old ways and do not adapt to new challenges and opportunities to do things differently

Unconventional– while avoiding the most offbeat ideas, luck contractors thrive on imagining breakthrough ideas to deliver great value to clients.

Conventional– unlucky contractors reject new ideas for fear of being viewed as offbeat and kooky.

Resilient – Changing large organizations is tough work with many obstacles, but lucky contractors don’t give up early. They persevere and continue on a mission to change the status quo and deliver valuable solutions to the most pressing agency problems.

Weak – give up too early, within a year or two, or after a couple of losses. That’s when the excuse making begins… “the government market is rigged; Agencies don’t know what they need, etc.”

So luck certainly plays a part in government contracting, but only as you view luck as described above. It is not some magic, conjured up by external forces.  It is created internally, starting with top management willing to recognize shortcomings and commit to doing things differently. 

Committing to becoming lucky requires an honest self-appraisal of your firm. 

  • Does your firm look for little know, under appreciated agency problems?
  • Do you have a mechanism to share insight in hopes of helping agencies recognize problems?  
  • Do you actually provide differentiated solutions (don’t say yes to this one too quickly!)? 
  • Do you have a sound go-to-market strategy?

Luck does not just happen.  It can be created or destroyed and you are in control of whether or not you become a lucky contractor.

Where do you begin? First learn how federal agencies actually buy and learn why it's so important to get in with them early in the federal buyers journey.

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Topics: Government Contracts, Government Sales

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